The Eastern Gray Squirrel
(Sciurus carolinensis) is native to northeastern North America, which interestingly enough, contrasts with most songbirds that it competes for food at feeders – many common bird species are non-native to this region!
A natural result of hiding nuts and seeds underground is that inevitably some get left or forgotten and sprout. Surprisingly, squirrels can be called an essential propagator of natural flora.
Squirrels are omnivores – primarily feeding on seeds, nuts, and plants, but they also feed on insects, eggs, even snakes.
The amazing acrobatic abilities of squirrels are in part due to double-jointed back legs, which allow them to be one of the few creatures in the world that can descend a tree head-first!
Squirrels are known for a striking ability to survive falls of over 30 feet – essential for high wire activities with no net!
Squirrels build nests (called “dreys”) in tree tops that can be spotted easily in fall and winter after foliage drops. During the colder months, squirrels have been known to allow “outside” squirrels to share their nest for warmth.
A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing, meaning they constantly need to find a source of food not only for nourishment, but to grind down teeth that would otherwise grow uncontrollably!
Squirrels will employ deception when hiding food if they know they are being watched – digging false holes and burying non-food items to trick rivals.
The squirrel family – which includes chipmunks, red squirrels, fox squirrels and more – is extremely territorial. It’s not uncommon to see a smaller chipmunk fighting “tooth and nail” to defend their turf against larger Eastern gray squirrels.
Fond of building nests in buildings including homes and businesses, squirrels can cause extensive damage to walls, insulation and structures – including exposing wires and causing fires!
Occasionally, squirrels can turn to nests of wild birds for food including eating eggs and sometimes even baby birds.
Although rarely seen, a group of squirrels is called a “scurry”!
Any long-time bird feeder knows you cannot win against squirrels forever – you can simply employ tactics to slow or temporarily stop these pesky rascals from getting your seed before the birds do.
Believe it or not, if you can successfully thwart squirrels for long enough, they will give up! The key is figuring out how to do that, and well...we never said that was going to be easy!
• Keep feeders away from ledges like deck railings, and away from trees or low hanging roof lines.
• Use a skinny, narrow pole to mount or a thin string to hang feeders – the less to grip the better!
• “Grease” the poles of mounted feeders with petroleum jelly.
• Use a squirrel baffle above or below the feeder on a pole or the hanging line/cable.
• Use spice! Birds cannot taste spice, but squirrels can. Liberally apply chili powder to ports of feeders, but be careful when you do it – humans and squirrels share the same issues with spice! Mixes with spice are available but typically need a little extra help hitting the right level of spice to permanently deter squirrels.
• Use feeders designed to stop squirrels – whether with weighted perches, spring loaded baffles, or even battery powered motors to fling squirrels away!